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Responding to Alan Schwarz 04 In Defense of “Occupy” 05 The Beauty of Boredom 10 Sarah Meggison on Home 12

St. John’s College • 60 College Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401 • Nov. 1, 2011 • Vol. XXXIII • Issue 09


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<< Cover: Eric Fricke (A’14) on Halloween. >> The Man, The Legend: Tommy Bonn (A’13), pictured with his ever-present water bottle and clad in his favorite “pi” shirt. The student newspaper of St. John’s College 60 College Avenue Annapolis, Maryland 21401 gadfly@sjca.edu Editors-in-Chief Danny Kraft Grace Tyson Assistant Editors Nathan Goldman Ian Tuttle Layout Editor Hayden Pendergrass Assistant Layout Editors Hau Hoang Amy Stewart Staff Jonathan Barone Tommy Berry Robert Malka Sarah Meggison Joshua Snyder Jonathan Whitcomb-Dixon Charles Zug Business Manager Honore Hodgson Photographer Henley Moore Contributors Painter Bob Wyatt Hope Hunter Cox Jerry Januszewski Cinar Doruk Daniela Lobo Dias Melissa Gerace Wolfe Nelson Founded in 1980, The Gadfly is the student newspaper distributed to over 600 students, faculty, and staff of the Annapolis campus. Opinions expressed within are the sole responsibility of the author(s). The Gadfly reserves the right to accept, reject, and edit submissions in any way necessary to publish the most professional, informative, and thought-provoking newspaper which circumstances at St. John’s College permit. Articles submitted will be edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and length in most cases. The Gadfly is not obligated to publish all submissions except under special circumstances. The Gadfly meets every Sunday at 7 PM in the lower level of the Barr-Buchanan Center. Articles should be submitted by Friday at 11:59 PM to Gadfly@sjca.edu.

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!"#$%&'(!) > Hunter Cox A’13

D

earest Polity, me in class.” Well, I’d like to tell Mr. and I would like to apologize for my Ms. Polity that the powers-that-be have recent article directed towards junior decided to keep me at this school, so I’ll Drew Menzer. It should come to your keep pleading my case. greatest relief that, after reading Mr. In the meantime, I would like to direct Menzer’s article in The Gadfly, I no everyone’s attention to one Mr. Bonn. It longer have any of those harsh feelings has long been a poorly guarded secret towards him. To say it that Mr. Bonn is St. simply: Stay here, Drew I would like to direct John’s only Athletic Menzer. (I also want to Scholarship and that everyone’s attention he has now been a assure you that it did to one Mr. Bonn. not take me a month junior for four years to read his article, just running. A source in a month to remember to write about it.) the Registrar’s Office who asked me not Now, onto more important topics: to use his name for security purposes ME. Some questions have been raised told me that Mr. Bonn’s grades have been by others about my own academic fabricated to maintain his eligibility, character. I would like to let you all and that they post his grades alongside know that I am aware of these issues. a series of fake names to make him feel I know facts like, I “don’t live with better about going to a “real college.” I Johnnies” and I “can’t actually read.” recently found him in the Coffee Shop Along with these well-known facts, I looking at The Gadfly UPSIDE DOWN! want to address some others. Some Which brings me to this conclusion: He people may say that I “don’t go to can’t even read. So I ask you, members seminar,” or that I’ve “never had a Don of the polity: Is this the kind of person Rag” and that I “don’t know how that you want ruining your seminar? Or will works”; some might say I “don’t know you join me in saying: Tommy Bonn—get who Mr. Sachs is” or that they “don’t see gone! !


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{ !"#$%&'(

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Tommy Bonn challenges your seminar/precept character to a one-on-one basketball match. How does your seminar character respond? +,()*"

}

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Socrates

Epictetus

Leibniz

Benito Cereno

On second thought, I’m going to go back into my cave.

I, like Socrates, can play ball with the best of them. Bring it.

jfdjfeiwjfoj … substance … fjdkfjd … monad.

Benito Cereno accepts, but make it two-on-two, and I call Babo.

> Anonymous

> Anonymous

> Gadfly staff

> Honore Hodgson

NEXT WEEK

How did your seminar character dress up for Halloween?

!"!#$%&'# “T

> Melissa Gerace A’15

hirty days and nights of literary abandon,” advertises the website for National Novel Writing Month, or, as it is better known, NaNoWriMo. But the truth is, writing a novel in a month isn’t so much literary abandon as it is literary insanity: to write 50,000 words (roughly 150 pages) over the month of November does not take creativity alone—the writer must also possess large degrees of dedication, perseverance, and enormous amounts of pure crazy. Luckily, pure crazy is something most (if not all) fiction writers are very much used to. Who but a writer could live in a land of their own creation, care so deeply about people who do not exist, and still function (semi-)normally in reality? I am not making wild assumptions about writers, or, more specifically, about those who take part in NaNoWriMo. I have lived this pure craziness myself, dragged through sleepless Novembers and ingested so much coffee that my friends notified me, whenever they hugged me, that I was actually quivering. I spent my nights in a dream-world of writing, yawning over my keyboard as the clock ticked into the earliest hours of morning. I spent my days in a daze of school and homework, using every free period my high school offered to finish what work I had so

that I could have more time to write. I never quite managed to get to 50,000 words—the closest I ever came was 33,920. Somehow, writing 1,000 words per day seems easy, until you try to do it, until you realize that even though this month is exciting and special, you’ll still have schoolwork and jobs to take care of, as well as somehow punching out just over 1,000 words a day—sometimes, the worst 1,000 words you’ve ever written. The best thing to remember is that NaNoWriMo is all about writing a set number of words within a limited amount of time. They don’t have to be great words; they don’t even have to

Somehow, writing 1,000 words per day seems easy, until you try to do it.

be good words. One of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is tracking back through your work when the month is finished, salvaging the good parts and laughing at the silly, sometimes bizarre, scraps of panicked word-count writing. So, how will these crazy writers spend November? Schoolwork, writing, and probably very little else. Sleep will be sacrificed. Necks will cramp as they bend over keyboards and paper. Hands will be stained with ink or perpetually drumming with the need to type. Eyes will glaze over mid-conversation as the surge of a story idea takes over. Thirty days and nights of reckless literary abandon will ensue, leading to some of the best and worst writing times of the writers’ lives. Do you want to join in, but don’t want to embark on this potentially dangerous voyage on your own? Never fear—the NaNoWriMo club meets Saturday evenings in the Chasement and plans to conduct writing activities to boost word count and morale as November wears on. Aspiring novelists, get ready: NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. It’s going to be a wonderful, difficult month. !


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An Alternate Response to Alan Schwarz

> Honore Hodgson A’12

Dear Polity, It has been drawn to our attention that there was a typographical error on the last Ministry poster. In the sixth line of the poster, “violations of causation” should have been “violations of causality.” The Ministry are beginning an inquiry to find out exactly what a violation of causation might entail, but at the moment the phrase appears to be meaningless. We commend the sharp eyes of the polity members who pointed out our error, and recommend the rest to similar vigilance. ~ The Minister of Propaganda

!"#$#%&' > Cinar Doruk A’13 For me It waits, the lidless eye Spares not the minute divergence From the unnamed path It runs To the darkest corners of my mind. There It broods over the unforgotten To hatch my end. There It waits, not ever sleeping, Nor scarred but empowered By my futile, pompous spear Dreams within dreams It spawns. Thus so gently It touches unawares To be my last breath.

()*#&+&,-./0*'& > Painter Bob

I rise to go and make myself each day I, as a blind fool fall along the way You pull me on, though bruised to black and blue For like a poem, we’re somehow, taylor made By deeds that bond our lives.. however weighed Become the joy that binds one through the grave For all and all, what’s made.. it is a friend That is the poem who’s faithful to no end.

W

hat kind of community are we? What kind of community do we want to be? We cannot change the students who will come after us, just as we cannot change those who came before. Each year we are a different community, with the incoming freshmen and absent seniors changing the social dynamic significantly. Perhaps the greatest virtue of our school is the opportunity for self-reflection. We spend hours in class discussing what it means to be human and lead a good life. Sometimes those discussions do not carry over into daily life. We still make mistakes, whether they are personal ones, such as not finishing essays because we choose to partake in nightly debauchery, or ones that affect the community, like the constant gossip we are all guilty of. These mistakes become truly monstrous when we add to their depravity by falling into a trap peculiar to Johnnies. At this school, we have a propensity to feel entitled. Not to anything like money, but to respect, position, and title in the world of education. Because we participate in the seminar conversation, many of us feel superior to other college students around the country who sit in stuffy lecture halls day after day. We go as far as to take pride in the way our liberal arts background is seemingly useless in the job market after graduation. I merely wish to say that it is one thing to be proud of one’s community, and quite another to place it on a pedestal to the derision of other communities and institutions. St. John’s is a special place; of that there is no doubt. But it is not the buildings or the curriculum that defines St. John’s. No, that tremendous and often precarious responsibility falls to us, the students: particularly the current students. And despite our training in seminar, we often miss the mark in our selfreflection, or it becomes meaningless when we leave seminar and forget it. This is one of the reasons why reflection from outside our immediate community is important. I of course refer to the recent New York Times article and the way our community responded to it. The article itself had its problems to be sure; our floors are not plywood, and in my few interactions with our president I have never known him to smile sadistically. But does that excuse us for throwing a tantrum? In seminar we often read opposing views which can sometimes misrep-

resent each other, and yet we read each work critically and let the author make their case. This is not how we treated the NYT article. We act as if an outsider visiting our school has to be initiated into secret mysteries of the college to understand it. We embrace the notion that there is always something new to learn—this is as true of our school as it is of justice—but even freshmen who had yet to finish the Republic or even make it through their first Don Rag were up in arms over the inadequacies of the article, offended at the crude ponderings of a man whose understanding of St. John’s paled in comparison to their own extensive experience. If we dislike the way we were represented in the article, at least part of the blame resides in us. Did Mr. Schwarz read a little too much into the conversations he was privy to? Undoubtedly. But if his worst offenses were poor choices in poetic license and general ignorance, then we are to blame for far more than being rude. Rather than taking our cue from Socrates, who welcomed ignorance and strove with his interlocutors to discover truth, we flooded Mr. Schwarz with angry emails and shamed him for mistakes he made trying to understand and write about something that is extremely difficult even for us to grapple with. I was angry the first time I read the article, as many of my classmates were. When my excited parents told me about how much they liked the article, I was shocked. I have heard that this happened to many other students; their friends and family were excited to see the obscure college their kids go to in the news. The inaccuracies that agitated us into a mob wielding torches and pitchforks were celebrated by our parents and alumni who were delighted to see St. John’s get some positive, if not wholly error-free, recognition. Mr. Schwarz’s article was to be the first of a two-part project. I’m sure some of you reading this will be happy to hear that, due to our response, he has chosen not to write the conclusion. But I wonder if we should be proud to have alienated ourselves from someone who wanted to tell the world about us, especially when we are all aware of the financial difficulties we face. I personally feel sorry that rather than opening a dialogue with Mr. Schwarz, something that our community prides itself in being able to do, we mocked him, rejected his article, and slammed the door in his face. !


The Gadfly

Introduction to a General Response to the Critics of Occupy Wall Street

> Wolfe Nelson A’14

05

Photo courtesy of Occupy Wall Street

O

ne of the more common criticisms I've heard lobbed at Theoretically, this should be better for us. After all, with Occupy Wall Street finds them guilty of choosing the val- fewer taxes business can be stronger. Yet, American business ues of the French Revolution over the values of the Greatest gain doesn't appear to translate to the average citizen's gain. Generation. Ignoring the fact that comparing an explicitly The economy has doubled since 1980, yet workers experinonviolent protest to the Reign of Terror is hilariously hyper- enced a 1% raise in wages during that period. The top 1% of bolic, it is my contention that calling for a return to the values earners, however, saw their income shoot up 40% and their of “The Greatest Generation” reveals something about these taxes plummet. During the Greatest Generation, tax on the critics they don't know about themselves. They agree with the wealthiest Americans was well over 70%, and it didn't seem protesters. When I realized this, I found myself writing less to hurt them or their businesses. Now the median is 23.5%. an editorial than a reiteration of the holy Delphic injunction:! But that's beside the point. Taxation is only a minor issue that "#$%&!'()*+,#-!Know Thyself. The values of the Greatest Gen- many assume is the root of the protest. The wealthiest 1% of eration, “work hard, earn a fair share from it,” are precisely Americans pay 40% of the bill, the critics claim, as if it were what Occupy Wall Street is about. So why are these critics not from their beneficence. Actually, if the Wall Street protests are marching with them? about anything, it's about the massive inequality that allows As much as we wish to ignore it, a whole lot has changed such a marginal fraction to have that much acquired wealth since the Greatest Generation. There are fewer jobs, and the (this 1% owns about 40% of the wealth in America), while the jobs that do exist frequently lack the benefits, income, and sta- bottom 99% of the country has seen barely an improvement bility the Greatest Generation expected. A common proposal in life. is to cut taxes on business as a solution to the financial crisis. The Greatest Generation defined American values as we The assumption is widespread: what is now know them, but the world has good for business is good for the people. changed around these values. Wealth is Occupy Wall Street is not All the corporations complain about taxrelative; in 1965 the average CEO made es, and surely they couldn't have ulterior 24 times the average worker. In 2005, a movement demanding motives. To reply, we need merely look to that number had swelled to 262. By CIA handouts. It is a movehistory. In the booming '50s, top corpoment that wants a steady and UN estimate, income inequality in rate tax was 47%. Compare this to the 35% America is worse than the notoriously job that can support a top tax we have now. Or don't, because plutocratic post-soviet Russia. Yet the family to exist as an option real anger of the movement comes not it's a theoretical number that no corporation, especially the largest, will ever pay. from the fact that the institutions that for all American citizens. American corporate taxes are difficult to ruined the economy and lost millions of average precisely, because they tend to vary by industry. The their jobs were given $700 billion in bailout money from the highest, retail, is about 31%, and the lowest, mining, is 6%. Of pockets of the very same people they ruined. It doesn't even course, there are a good many companies that simply don't pay come from their decision to spend this money on private jets anything. Through a mix of lobbyists, tax shelters (frequently and CEO bonuses, while they already enjoyed tax cuts for bedesigned by their own employees), and loopholes, these cor- ing too poor to “stay competitive.” No, the real anger of the porations do not “pay their share.” GE made around $5.1 bil- movement is that these events are so commonplace they elicit lion domestically in 2010. If they paid the cited top rate, they barely a response from the very people who are being ruined. would owe around $1.8 billion. Actually, they claimed a tax Is the movement disorganized? Yes. But the accusation that benefit of $3.2 billion. There are explanations for this, but that the protest has no coherency is a blatant denial of reality. We would require a longer and more vitriolic article. The point must understand that this movement is still a young one. All is, America's tax rate is neither the highest in the world (that young protests sound disparate. The broader themes are hard goes to Japan), nor are these rates enforced effectively. In a to piece together from the seemingly cacophonous demands. country where more money means more political power, it The sole unity is a feeling that something is desperately wrong; doesn't take much to imagine the businesses using this power manifestos on how to change that come later. The civil rights to lower taxes. Or to imagine that an obvious consequence of movement came together under the belief that racial inequalcorporate tax cuts is more power (it's because they have more Continued on Pg. 08 money).


Let the

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fright begin


> Photos by Henley Moore


The Gadfly To the Critics of Occupy Wall Street, continued from Pg. 05 -ity is an ill; amongst the participants were radical differences in opinion on how to change that. Only with time, and frequent dialogue between participants and outsiders, could something like the Civil Rights Act emerge as a definite possibility. Yet it could not have passed without the disorganized passion that carried it to the forefront. Similarly has the Tea Party united, seeking to end the nebulous phrase “big government.” Each participant has his own particular concern: gun regulation, over-taxation, etc…but all see them as symptoms of the “big government” illness. In order to demonstrate their unity, they never needed to produce a pamphlet contending that the president’s arms are three or four inches too long. The greatest achievement these embryonic protests can boast of is to get people talking, get them asking question they otherwise wouldn’t. So, has Occupy Wall Street succeeded in this? Well, yes. Our school practically boasts of its reluctance to “burst the Johnny bubble,” and yet here we are bursting it. Occupy Wall Street is not a movement demanding handouts. It is a movement that wants a steady job that can support a family to exist as an option for all American citizens. It is a movement that, noting policies increasingly favorable to business at the expense of the people, would like to see a more democratic, and less plutocratic, political system. It is a movement that wants the most powerful members of society to play by the same values they preach. To assume the wealthy will not use that power to define policies favorable to them is painfully naïve. To assume a lawmaker is immune to corruption, by virtue of being American, is ridiculous. Finally, to assume the heads of corporations care about their employee’s standards of living more than their own paychecks is, to borrow a phrase, to refuse to confront reality. Your enemies are not those marching, but those who have convinced you to fight against your own beliefs!" #$%&'" ()*+,-$!"!

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A group of dastardly freshmen enjoy the condiments they’ve brought to their table.

> Wyatt Hope A’15

W

hat is wrong with you people? last one, and you're only allowing that This behavior is bordering on to happen sooner. Not only that, you are the sociopathic, and it makes me feel ill. encouraging and enabling him. He sees There are only so many bottles of Srira- only one bottle left there and thinks, “If cha in the dining hall and not a single all the other bottles have been taken, I person at this school, student or tutor, suppose I'm allowed to take this one is important enough to justify bringing too.” a third of the entire dining hall's spicy I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. goodness to his own table. You plan on You might have no idea that what you sharing with everyone at your table? Not are doing is wrong. It could be that you an excuse. You can don't understand choose instead to that you are coming share with the rest between a man and You might have no idea of the dining hall by the basic human that what you are doing leaving the bottle right to flavor his is wrong. It could be that where it belongs. food. Forgive me you don’t understand that for bursting your The condiments you are coming between a bubble of blissare placed on the table at the enman and the basic human ful ignorance (or trance of the dining don't forgive me, I right to flavor his food. hall for a reason: it's really don’t care), fucking convenient. but when someone When your food is on your plate and the comes around to your table and asks, chili sauce is there on the table, what is “Are you done with this sauce?” know stopping you from using it right there that what he means to say is, “Have you and leaving it? If your hands are too full no decency?” to comfortably maneuver the bottle, This isn't just about Sriracha. It perput down your plate and leave the bot- tains to the ketchup, the steak sauce, tle where you left it so the next person mustard, and Tabasco. These are all doesn't have to search for it. things that we need, and we each have You might not feel guilty for taking a an equal stake in them. Surely, absolute bottle to your table while another still control of our favorite condiment is a remains with the condiments. You might luxury we all want, but it is one we can reason that the only wrongdoer is the not share. Have you forgotten about Lycone who takes the last bottle, but this urgus? Have you forgotten that we dine isn't true and you should understand together as equals, and that no man is why. You know someone will take the privileged over another? !


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Jocks of the Week

34356 789:;84*56 Come see Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, as presented by the King William's Players! The performances take place on Friday, November 4 – 4:15 PM Saturday, November 5 – 6:15 PM Sunday, November 6 – 6:15 PM

Mr. Reese

All of the performances will take place at the French Monument near the boathouse. As the play will be performed outside, please dress warmly, and feel free to bring blankets! Complimentary hot chocolate and coffee will be provided. Bring your friends and family, and come enjoy one of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays.

Ms. Moon

!"#$%&'()*+,,-')."/)01+,1'2!The Art of American Illustration Mitchell Art Gallery, October 27 - December 15, 2011 > Daniela Lobo Dias A’12

T

N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945), Bruce on the Beach, 1921. Oil on canvas. Kelly Collection of American Illustration

he colors of the butter-textured oil paint indulged my eyes. Immediately, I recognized the plot and was drawn into the drama of the characters: the shining eyes of the adventurous hero, the nightmarish slump of the villain, or the sly smile of the seductress.... This was my experience when seeing the works of the Mitchell Gallery’s newest exhibit: Knights, Crooks and Heroes: The Art of American Illustration. The golden age of American illustration flourished in the late 19th century. Due to improvements in printing technology, book illustrations were mass-produced to satisfy the demand for literature from the growing educated population. Though illustrators struggled to be recognized as true artists at the time, the poetry of their works undeniably flows out to the viewer. Among the represented stories, we have Captain Blood, A Voice in the Rice, Les Misérables, and The Count of Monte Cristo, as created by wellknown illustrators such as Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, and N.C. Wyeth. The exhibit, curated by the Gallery’s own Art Educator, Lucinda Edinberg, is a collection of privately-owned pieces. So make sure to not miss this opportunity to be enchanted. Check out some of the Gallery’s events through the St. John’s website or Facebook, including tours led by Lucinda Edinberg herself on 11/13 and 12/7. !


The Gadfly

!"#$%#&'()$ *+$%*,#-*.

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subject altogether because personalizing the question makes it terrifying. If I sense emptiness in me, what does that say about who I am? The creeping specter of our own meaninglessness, suggested by hyper-boredom, is uncomfortable enough that we regularly blunt it through agreeable distractions. This might be a reasonable solution for simple boredom; simply fend off > Jerry Januszewski tedium with novelty. But the experience of hyper-boredom is ’ll never forget my father’s reaction when he found me read- deeper, chronic and not dependent on external factors. Hying the magnificent How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. per-boredom is largely metaphysical; experienced apart from “You’re reading a book about reading a book?” he asked in dis- sensory events. Seeking better distractions, more inventive belief. “Diane!” he called to my mother. “Why did we ever take and original experiences, may be sufficient to reduce simple boredom, but only expands our capacity for aching hyperhim out of Catholic school?” I can forgive anyone for having the same dubious reaction boredom. This sheds light on why the pursuit of pleasure for pleaas my father when I say one of the most exciting books I ever read is about boredom. Boredom, Self and Culture by Seán Des- sure’s sake invariably results in boredom. We want the pleamond Healy helped me consolidate thoughts I’d had for years sure that thrills to continue thrilling indefinitely. But our response to the pleasure adapts, tolerance increases, what was about the paradoxical devastation and beauty of boredom. Most people trivialize the experience of boredom. Healy novel becomes ordinary; the thrill is gone and we are left even writes, “This supposedly commonplace perception of [bore- more susceptible to hyper-boredom than before we started. If dom] as a virtual unavoidable occupational hazard, disagree- you like to drink, you might find that it now takes four beers able but harmless, possessed even as it might be of redeem- to accomplish the buzz that used to come with two beers. This ing educational value inasmuch as it prepares its victims for should concern you, not for fear of alcoholism, but for fear the greater boredom to come—a kind of educational vaccine of your inner life becoming even more vulnerable to hyperstimulating the production of characterological antibodies to boredom. The redemptive potential of boredom exists in the possibilcontain future onslaughts.” ity that the discomfort will drive us to devote honest attention If only it were that benign. In reality, boredom is usually to our souls’ true need: its thirst for meaning, not distraction. corrosive and destructive to the human personality. It is a maWhat does my experience of emptiness jor factor in the self-defeating behavior reveal about my fears and my needs? patterns that cause us all so much pain. The redemptive potential Our inner unrest is a portal leading to And yet, within the experience of boreof boredom exists in the answers to that question and more. dom resides the potential for self-knowlIn Dante’s Inferno, the lost souls in possibility that the discomedge leading to deep fulfillment. Hell rushed to their judgement, desirHealy makes the distinction between fort will drive us to devote ing the very thing they feared. If we are simple boredom and hyper-boredom. honest attention to our to lay hold of Beauty begat of Boredom, Simple boredom comes from tedious souls’ true need: its thirst for we must confront the same inclination activity, a reaction to a monotonous irmeaning, not distraction. in our own souls to rush to the usual diritant. Hyper-boredom is a more serious versions that perpetuate the hellish hydeep-seated agony, rooted in a perception of inner emptiness. Simple boredom is a response to an per-boredom we fear. Avoiding the confrontation with your external something. Hyper-boredom is a response to an in- own emptiness leads to a greater, more protracted and painful ternal nothing. It is this hyper-boredom, the true subject of struggle in the end. Are you willing to allow your experience of boredom to act Healy’s book, that I take very seriously. The experience of hyper-boredom is manifestly intoler- as your guide? Begin by examining yourself: how do I divert able. Proof of this is found in how quickly, almost desperately, myself when bored? Then make a start by “sitting” with yourwe seek to escape it. We feel bored, that is, empty, and almost self instead of rushing to the diversion. Note the resistance instantaneously we take evasive action, doing just about any- you feel. What is being resisted? The perception of noththing to divert ourselves: text someone, use the computer, turn ing? Practice waiting it out until something emerges from the on music, eat, drink or smoke. Even fiddling with a pen will do. nothing, as it will in time. This is the struggle, resisting the urge to flee to the pleasant Almost any diverting activity is preferred to the interior perception of emptiness we euphemistically call boredom. The distraction. Try this when you feel nervous in a social situamore keenly felt, the more assiduously avoided. Since hyper- tion. Ask yourself why your discomfort is there, challenge its boredom is so easily appeased without being truly remedied, validity instead of drinking your way out of it. As we progress, we learn how enfeebling the distraction was and how invigowe fail to recognize its controlling power. As Healy notes, the common denominator of all hyper-bore- rating this manner of self-discovery can be. The perception of inner emptiness, what Healy calls hyperdom is the loss of personal meaning. The idea of life without boredom, is not a nuisance but an invitation to a radical change meaningful purpose panics the soul. Many people are relucin our approach to life. This inquisitive attitude towards boretant to examine this in a personal way; they may do so only dom is counter-intuitive, ironic and yes, exciting. ! with detached philosophic interest. Or they may avoid the

I


11

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we lost our understanding of beauty? Ian Tuttle’s latest column explores the ! Have place of the sacred in the modern age.

> Ian Tuttle A’14

R

omeo Castrucelli’s On the Concept of the Face, Regarding century-long development that has sought to vulgarize the sathe Son of God tells the story of an adult son caring for his cred: Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, for example, a photograph aged, incontinent father. Behind the events on stage, which of a small wooden crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine; or culminate in the declining father despoiling his son’s immacu- Enrique Chagoya’s The Misadventures of the Romantic Canlate bedroom, hangs a blown-up image of Jesus taken from a nibals, which depicts Jesus reaching orgasm while receiving painting by Antonello da Messina. The play ends with the im- oral sex. age shredded onstage, revealing the words, “You Are Not My Perverse modernism has destroyed the distinction between Shepherd.” The “Not” disappears as another image of Jesus the sacred and the profane. It is the manifestation of an ideolreturns, this time with simulated excrement drizzling from ogy that says that there is nothing to us beyond our corpses, so his right eye. there is nothing that need be (or could be) nourished or upThe play, which has been staged in several European cit- lifted; it is, as Bayles says, “anarchistic, nihilistic.” ies without incident, made headlines this week when a group When simple obscenity of the human body was no longer of Parisian Christians interrupted a performance, throwing shocking (indeed, Italian artist Piero Manzoni was canning his stinkbombs into the audience and decrying “Christianopho- own excrement 50 years ago), artists had to find a new shockbia.” French politicians and artists, as well as the French Ro- inducing subject, and they turned to religious icons. But we man Catholic bishops’ association, roundly condemned the are seeing that even this vulgarization is losing its ability to action. “upset the normal order”; it has become the normal order. Headlines aside, though, the whole matter has been rather What, then, will be next? When a culture’s most sacred imaghumdrum. Castrucelli’s image has not created global outrage es have lost their transcendent element—when they no longer (cp. the worldwide death threats that followed a 2005 Danish reveal heights of “emotion or mind or spirit”—how will artists newspaper cartoon depicting the Prophet shock us? It seems that, at that point, they Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban), will have to vulgarize the vulgar. That will nor has it revolutionized modern theatre. be the era when violent pornography and Perverse modernism Guardian drama critic Michael Billingmutilation become performance art. And has destroyed the dis- what, at that point, will be left to transcend ton, reviewing the play in April, wrote, “I tinction between the found myself mildly bored rather than morand uplift? ally outraged.” Perhaps, then, what is most Is there a solution to this trend? sacred and the profane. shocking about Castrucelli’s feces-covered Thoughtful legal parameters may be necChrist is that it is no longer shocking. At essary, at the very least to protect children some point over the last century, we became inured to the ob- from the devastating effects of exposure to graphic images. scene. And we have come to tolerate not simply obscenity but But the nature of the problem precludes solely legal soluobscenity involving that which was previously held sacred. tions. Necessary is a resurrection of a notion of true beauty, In an interview on the Mars Hill Audio Journal, author Mar- what generations past may have considered “high culture.” As tha Bayles characterizes the trajectory of much post-1930s art, author Mark Steyn observes, “popular culture” is a meaningbeginning with Dada, as “perverse modernism,” an under- less phrase; all culture is now popular. Just as we no longer standing of art not as an object but as a “gesture” that rejects distinguish between the sacred and the profane, we no lonall claims to transcendence, religious or otherwise. Bayles ger distinguish between a high culture of true beauty and a calls it “a finger in your eye…it’s a way of shocking people; lower culture that is pleasant and enriching if not as exquiit’s a way of upsetting the normal order.” But where the first sitely powerful. Some will argue that calling for a renewal of Dadaists could shock easily (eg. drawing a mustache on the ideas of beauty and sacredness incorporates passé value judgMona Lisa), nearly a century of shock-centered art has raised ments or, worse, religious imperialism. But it does not take the standard; we are no longer easily perturbed, and that has religious faith to recognize that a society that celebrates Bach led to an obsession with obscenity, which Bayles defines as “an and Michelangelo will be much healthier than one that celangle of vision toward our material and physical life…that just ebrates 50 Cent and Paul McCarthy (whose masterpieces inlooks at us as physical, material entities, that removes from clude Shit Face Painting and Penis Brush Painting, Windshield, your attention the human dimension, the dimension of emo- Black Paint). tion or mind or spirit.” Perhaps Castrucelli is saying something profound. Perhaps This is precisely what Castrucelli’s image does. It forces the the play is a soul-searching commentary on faith or sacrifice audience to view Jesus strictly as material, no different in sub- or love in the modern age. But it is hard to believe so. It is stance than the excrement pouring from his eye. And in doing hard to believe that there can be much beautiful in defiling so, he creates exactly what Bayles says is the effect of obscen- the sacred. ity: “a kind of deadening of the world, a removal of the things The question is not whether these artists should be allowed that are important in life.” to create this type of art. The question is what we have beBut Castrucelli’s image is only the latest installment in a come when we consider it beautiful. !


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f you ask me where I’m from, I’ll tell show was Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for you North Carolina, but in the back Cutie...fangirl swoon). From there, I disof my mind I’ll be a little unsure if that’s covered the vibrant and vital music and the correct answer. All my life, I’ve felt culture of the Triangle cities: Raleigh, a bit homeless. Yes, I grew up in North Durham, and Chapel Hill. It was a gloCarolina from ages 3 to 18, but I don’t rious revelation for me. Over the years have any real ties there. My parents are I’ve seen several good shows in those from Connecticut and New York, so I’ve towns. Most significantly, I happened spent a fair bit of time up there too. I upon a relatively unknown Chapel Hill was born in Iowa, because my dad was band called I Was Totally Destroying It in chiropractic school. And now, living (GO LOOK THEM UP RIGHT NOW in Annapolis, I feel a bit all over the map I BEG OF YOU) that changed my life. with no base to call my home. Their music helped me through some But I love North personal hard times Carolina and my heart and helped me to see Now that North Caro- that my home state rehas forged her own tie to it. It wasn’t always ally does have a lot of lina and I are taking like that, though. I wonderful things to some time apart, I hated it when I was feel like our relation- offer. younger. I’m from a And it really is my ship is changing. little town called Wilhome state, even if liamston (population it’s not quite my home 5,000 and dropping), but I won’t even right now. Without it, I’d be a completetry to tell you where it is geographi- ly different person. I guess the point is cally, because there isn’t anything that that sometimes a situation can seem I could reference that you would recog- completely terrible and worthless, but nize. Suffice it to say, it is located in the even so, there is always something to be rural northeastern part. Yeah, redneck/ gained from any experience if you look deer hunting/tobacco chewing/pickup hard enough. Maybe I’ll find myself in truck/Bible Belt/Bojangles sweet tea Chapel Hill upon graduating from St. heaven. Not really my thing. But de- John’s, or maybe I won’t, but whatever spite my personal dissatisfaction with happens, North Carolina will always the area, it really did help me to become have my heart. who I am for the better. The contrast To quote my dear I Was Totally Deprovided me with a context to figure out stroying It’s cover of “In A Big Counwho I am as a person. try,” “But you can’t stay here with every Now that North Carolina and I are single hope you have shattered...In a big taking some time apart, I feel like our re- country dreams stay with you.” And to lationship is changing. I crave it in this quote their own song “Wake Up,” “Tonew and strange way. I started to actu- bacco Road, that’s my home.” Thus, ally like NC when I was about 15 and dis- home helps you become who you are, covered a music club in Carrboro (close but sometimes you have to get out in orto Chapel Hill) called Cat’s Cradle (the der to put those lessons to use. !

The Gadfly, Vol. XXXIII, Issue 09  

The ninth issue of Volume XXXiII

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